The Role of Today’s Manager
What is the role of a manager in today’s technology driven global work environment? And, for the record, when I use the term global I do not mean to imply that your company does business in other countries. You could operate in one state or in one city and hire employees who were born in another country and migrated to the United States.
When you look at the history of management starting around the turn of the century there has been an evolution of different theories and practices. The theory of management is complex and has a long history of change and growth.
From a practical standpoint, I asked myself this question. Is the role of today’s manager position based or situation based? From an experiential position, I answered my own question this way. Management is situation based not position based. It does not matter if your title is President, Vice President of Sales, Director, or Supervisor. If you manage other people, your role must change roles as you interact with your direct reports. Below are four examples that describe how a person who manages other people can change their role depending on the situation.
- Your direct report’s performance is below expectation. In this situation you act as a Task Master. You focus on the employee’s position description and those policies and procedures that are relevant to the job. Your behavior is impersonal and hierarchical in nature. You communicate your expectation as compliance to the performance improvement plan. The outcome you seek is restoration of acceptable performance levels. As time consuming as it may be, you schedule weekly one-on-on meetings with your direct report.
- Your direct report requires your help. You either observe the problem(s) or your direct report comes forward and asks for your assistance. You are now acting in the Problem Solver role. You focus on the current challenge and your behavior is prescriptive and advisory. You communicate your expectation as acceptance of your recommendations with an outcome that solves the problem(s) or improves the situation in play. You schedule monthly one-on-one follow-up meetings to follow-up on your recommended solutions.
- Your direct report desires coaching to improve performance above expectation. In this scenario the employee’s performance is not problematic. You use your knowledge, personal experience, and appropriate skills in the role of a Coach. Your behavior is insightful and collaborative. You communicate your expectation where the employee is accepting of being totally involved in the coaching process. You schedule bi-weekly or monthly one-on-one follow-up meetings as needed.
- Your direct report is looking for a Mentor. Mentoring is about personal and professional growth. This situation occurs when the relationship between the manager and direct report evolves over time and is driven by a need for self-actualization where the direct report is motivated to reach his or her full potential. The relationship is nurturing and respectful on both sides. One-on-one time is spontaneous and is not usually regularly scheduled.
There are other factors that come into play in all of the above examples that can be obstacles to success. The solutions require behavioral awareness and thought.
Since we are talking about the interaction between two people the manager should be aware of his or her own business orientation and the business orientation of the direct report. By business orientation, I mean the emphasis on people or tasks. Another factor to consider is each person’s perspective; how he or she thinks and then behaves. Are they fast paced requiring little information to make decisions to act; or are they slow passed requiring a lot of information before making a decision to act.
I believe that the majority of today’s managers fulfill these different roles on a daily basis. They may not use my labels, but they do change roles with different people depending on the situation. For those that have not adopted these different behaviors, I recommend you commit some time to the idea of improving your management practices.